Wild Bergamot

By William T. Hathaway

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Several years ago, while I was strolling along a dirt road in the Frying Pan Bridge area of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, my attention was captured by a clump of wildflowers. There I was, facing a magnificent flowering clump of wild bergamots; it was a total surprise, since I hadn't seen this species previously except for one occasion in the southern part of the county.

Wild bergamots are plants with showy, lavender flowers that are occasionally found in cultivation as a desirable perennial. A type of mint tea has been made from its aromatic leaves. Needless to say, as are may wild plants, its squeezed-out oils have been used by herbalists for their healing attributes.

From early June to September the wild bergamot survives in dry thickets and woodland borders. Its delicately graceful floral clusters rival even the well-known red bee balm that is commonly found in our flower gardens.